NASA's most elaborate life-hunting rover, Perseverance, is finally on the way to Mars. The rover, and its fly-along helicopter buddy, rocketed away from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Thursday, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket.
The spacecraft will take about seven months to reach Mars after traveling 300 million miles. Perseverance will then drill down and scrounge for evidence of past microscopic life in an ancient lake bed on Mars, and gather rock samples for future pickup.
NASA is teaming up with the European Space Agency to return the samples to Earth around 2031.
The United States is the only country so far to land successfully on Mars. If all goes well by next February, Perseverance will become the ninth US spacecraft to operate on the Martian surface.